Kitchener-Waterloo

2 emergency safe rooms under construction at Guelph hospital

Guelph General Hospital has closed five patient areas in its emergency department as it completes renovations to make the hospital a safer space for patients in psychiatric distress.

Safe rooms will have smooth walls, heavy furniture to prevent self-harm

Guelph General Hospital's emergency department will be under construction for eight to 12 weeks according to a hospital memo. (Google Street View)

Guelph General Hospital has closed five patient areas in its emergency department as it completes renovations to make the hospital a safer space for patients in psychiatric distress.

When the renovations are complete, the emergency department will have two "safe rooms," as well as a safe place for patients to wait and be assessed for mental disorders.

"About five to seven per cent of the patients that come to Guelph General Hospital every day actually are coming primarily for a mental health related reason," said Michelle Bott, senior director of patient services at the hospital. "That's why we need a safe environment."

Unsafe design

Right now, Bott said the hospital's emergency department has been designed to provide care to patients with physical ailments, and that space can be dangerous for those who come to the hospital in a mental emergency. 

"So, for example, [the rooms] would have, potentially, cords that are attached to, let's say, a cardiac monitor, or perhaps a call bell. All of these things, if a patient is at risk for self-harm, can be used as a means to actually harm themselves."

I could not pick that chair up and throw it. They also don't have any sharp edges that I could harm myself on.- Michelle Bott, Guelph General Hospital

The new safe spaces will look similar to other rooms in the hospital, but there will be some subtle differences. 

"We're in the process, for example, of removing all the current medical gas [connections] in the wall, covering any electrical outlets, so that there's nothing in the room environment that the patient could harm themselves with," she said. 

The furnishings are also being chosen with patient safety in mind. 

"The chairs, for the most part, are just going to look like a normal, seated chair that you would see in a hospital environment, but they're a little heavier," she said. "For example, I could not pick that chair up and throw it. They also don't have any sharp edges that I could harm myself on."

Construction impact

The renovations began the last week in April and will continue for eight to 12 weeks according to a hospital memo.

Bott said the safe spaces will be ready for patients starting late July or early August.

In the meantime, the hospital's emergency room is a construction zone, and patients can expect to hear hammering and drilling while they wait to see a doctor.

Despite the renovations and limited patient space, Bott said there have been no changes to patient wait times.

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